Just as my children outgrew daycare, we got a puppy, and started that cycle  again. Although I work from home, there are times when clients visit. Jessie, our Goldendoodle is loveable and friendly. Sometimes a little too friendly. She’s also loud, barking hellos to everyone from our mail carrier to another dog, which doesn’t create a calm work environment.  Luckily, I found amazing daycare for Jessie.

Day care solves myriad issues: It gives me a sense of calm and quiet during the day when I need to be productive, and it gives Jessie a place to run around and socialize.

Initially I had fears of placing my dog in daycare, mostly because she can be, how you say, rambunctious? At almost 70 pounds, she’s got a lot of power, and a lot of energy. When she’s excited, she may ‘hug’ the unsuspecting guest, wrapping two paws around their arms, or going full frontal embrace. She becomes aggressive toward some dogs in ways that are random and disturbing – and that’s after training. And, did I mention the barking?

Jessie’s a different dog at daycare, in the best of ways. On several occasions, I’ve furtively asked, “Was she okay today?  Did she behave?” full expecting the worst. Rachel, or Robyn or Brian assure me. “She’s an absolute angel. One of the best behaved dogs we have.”

They tell me stories of how all the goldendoodles hang out together, like a fluffy, panting social club. The space at TailWaggerz, Jessie’s daycare center, is sprawling, clean and filled with love for the canines. They’re fabulous to the humans as well. Dog walks are available, as is boarding and grooming and retail, a convenient, one-stop shop. Best of all, when Jessie returns home, she’s happy and exhausted, proving a tired dog is a good dog.

Jessie getting ready to meet up with her daycare canine posse

If you’re looking for the best daycare arrangement for your dog, here are eight things that will help you choose the best fit for you pup.

1.     Ask for referrals from family, friends and neighbors. Good word of mouth is usually a good sign.

2.     Check with your vet, who may have some knowledge of good facilities in your area.

3.    Do your homework. Research websites, Yelp and Google reviews.

4.    Take a tour.You can’t always tell from photos on a website. A reputable facility doesn’t require you to schedule an appointment, which tells you a lot about transparency and culture. While you tour their facility, speak with the owner, or manager, as well as staff. Ask clients what they think of the facility. Check out public areas as well, like their lobby and parking lot. See if there are safe, fenced-in areas for your pup. Note if outdoor areas have fencing at least six to seven feet high. Notice if there’s enough shade and water when your pup wants to cool down.

As a pet parent, you can help keep things clean in the outdoor areas at your local doggie day care.

5.    Ask questions.Narrow down your search by asking the following questions: How many dogs do you care for in one day? What’s a typical day like? Are dogs crated, or free to roam? What’s the staff to dog ratio?  Then note if the staff looks happy and engaged with the pets and each other. Jessie’s daycare facility isn’t fancy, but it’s well-maintained, and staffed with people who love dogs and want to be there.

6.    Check to see if their certified.How long they have been in business. What evaluation process they use to admit dogs. How do they handle emergencies? What’s their policy on vaccination, and health issues? How easy is it to communicate with them, and are they open to feedback? Whenever there is a suspected case of kennel cough, or, Jessie’s facility immediately sends an email to notify owners who may want to make other arrangements for a while.  Likewise, they send advance notice of any rate hikes, or closures.

7.    Check the mood. Look around at the pups. Body language doesn’t lie. Do dogs look hesitant and scared, or are they wagging those tails?

8.    Find a Match.What type of daycare suits your dog’s personality? Some dogs can handle big crowds. Others may be more sensitive, and benefit from a smaller pack, often found daycare operated from someone’s home. One vacation, I needed last minute day care for Jessie, and found it through Rover.com. At first skeptical, I became a believer. The women ran day care from her home. The dogs were playful, well-fed and cared for. I received photos of Jessie and her new friends at least three times over two days.

We all have different tastes, experiences and expectations when it comes to caring for our pets. It doesn’t have to be the most luxurious, or ‘best’, as long as it’s the best day care for your dog.